Is F1 qualifying less important now than it used to be?

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The four flyaway rounds to start the 2013 Formula One season have produced three different polesitters and three different race winners. Only one polesitter, Sebastian Vettel, has gone on to win the race – and controversially so in Malaysia.

While Mercedes seems to excel on one-lap speed but has consistently dropped back in the races, other teams are tending to opt to set their cars up for the race rather than qualifying. Overtaking has certainly been made easier of late thanks to the 2013 tire compounds and DRS.

So does qualifying still matter nearly as much as it once did? Not so, according to Mark Webber, who was one of several drivers to admit their thoughts to Autosport.

“Qualifying has become less and less important over the years,” he said. “Back in the day it was everything really – it was 75-80 percent of where you come around on the first lap. Now it is less of a factor, but it is still important in terms of traffic. You don’t want to be sitting in too much traffic with the tires – they don’t like being in disturbed air and they wear a lot more.”

For Felipe Massa, qualifying still takes precedence – and not just because Ferrari needs to improve its average grid position.

“This is something we always need to work for,” he said. “Although we cannot make the car worse for what we have in the race because we need to be the quickest car in qualifying.”

Leave it to Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, to be as succinct as ever.

“It helps if you can be in front, to save your tires, and you also have less chance of having issues at the start,” he said.

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”